John Story Jenks Elementary School circa 1960's

(back)       Elsa R. Jaeger       (next)
November 22nd, 1963

Sent: Sunday, August 19, 2018 9:03 PM
To: JS Jenks Alumni Chat Group
Subject: [Public] A John Story Jenks School '60s Memory

Hi from Michael Stevenson, Class of ’68, to everyone in the Alumni Chat Group.

This is a story from J.S. Jenks that I would like to share on the record, as it was one of the developmental events of my life. It has everything to do with standing at this trolley stop in this photo. This is where all those travelling south from our school to travel home would assemble to wait for that awesome travelling experience of riding on the charming 23 Trolley cars. Again, when one thinks of the friendships that were formed at JS Jenks, one huge aspect of that, was not only the rides on the trolley cars, but the endless exchanges in conversation that went on while lined up and waiting for this ride. After all, it was the end of the school day (heading in this direction}, and there was *always a lot to conversation based on the events of the day.

Normally, this was a most wonderful time. But this day as I stood there in line, a member of Miss Wholey’s fourth grade class, the date was November 22nd, 1963, and I was nine years old. The time would have been just after 3:00 PM in the afternoon (1500hrs). As I have mentioned. we were in the middle of our quite normal and *wonderful time of exchanging after class, with plenty of laughter. If we had been quiet in class during the school day, as we were supposed to have been, this was a time of joyous release. It was ok to exchange at a low roar, as long as the line stayed relatively neat. Then everything changed in a moment, as Principal Elsa R. Jaeger, was spotted walking on the sidewalk (on the east side of Germantown Avenue next to the school Building) and turning at the crossing point for the trolley stop, began to head in our direction. This is something that had never happened before.

One would have to have had the experience, I suppose, of being in Miss Jaeger’s presence, to comprehend the respect that she commanded. I can’t even tell you why exactly that was so. But this is someone who if were speaking to us in the auditorium or God forbid in her office, was not a person who needed to say, “Let’s quiet down, I want to share a word with you”. The minute she was announced (this would often occur when she would tell a story to us in assembly) the room went silent. And this was true even though I’m sure she was one of the nicest people ever to know and work with. We knew her as children, and she had our complete respect. Our teachers certainly did, too, but there was a marked difference.

Miss Jaeger arrived on the west side of Germantown Avenue at the southbound trolley stop to all of our stares (again, this had never happened before) And the entire group at the trolley stop who had been operating in that low roar of conversation, had already grown relatively silent, as our school Principal took a position, about mid-line I think, looked at us- raised her hand and said, “Now I want everyone in this line to be silent”. (She might have heard murmuring that I did not… I went silent the moment she stepped on the sidewalk.)

“I want you all to know, that the President of the United States has been shot.”, Miss Jaeger clearly stated. I remember those words verbatim. Her next words I cannot specifically quote, but the understanding was that Miss Jaeger conveyed to us that this was a very serious situation, and she wanted us to know it. She went on to say that it was no longer a time that afternoon, for jovial behavior or play but that we should carry ourselves in a quiet and restrained thoughtfulness about what she just told us, as we travelled home. We did, and that evening of course, details of news from local radio stations broadcasted unimaginable events that we never before would have thought to have heard.

I have often thought that this was another demonstration of the absolute integral character of Miss Jaeger, as a Principal of that school. As you know, the school day, at this time, was over and all classes had been dismissed and the student body already on the street in transit. On top of that, it was Friday and the student body was gone for the weekend. Miss Jaeger could have easily let the whole situation, as far as the students were concerned, be addressed at some other time. But she thought enough about *us, and she was so very moved by what had happened, that she wanted her students to know the seriousness of the day. And she left her office to walk to a public transportation area to find her students, and give us guidance she thought we needed.

Over the years when I thought of this event and mentioned it to others, my respect for her only continued... and grew. We all knew she was a remarkable woman from the story telling time she shared, but this was also a demonstration of her true character and the fulfillment of her office.

What a fine school it was that we attended.
Michael Stevenson ‘68

(back)       -       (next)